A Case for the Support of the Free Syrian Army
For a little over two years, the Syrian Civil War has raged on. The conflict has been between the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad, a man who has oppressed and killed thousands of his own citizens over the time of his rule, and the Free Syrian Army. Assad is not only a frequent violator of human rights, but he has actively supported terrorist organizations that have attacked Israel and supported policies that conflict with US interests in the region. If we do not support the Syrian rebels, then we risk Assad being replaced by an equally oppressive and violent, Sunni Muslim theocracy. So far, the United States government has stood by, believing that if we do nothing to support these rebels, then we will not hurt our foreign policy interests. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and the assumptions with which the Obama administration has used to support this policy have been flawed at their very core. Thus, we must support the Free Syrian Army, both with arms and financial contributions, to hopefully create a new successful, secular, democratic government in Syria, rather than simply another anti-American theocracy, or the continued rule of Bashar al-Assad.
President Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria since 2000 after his father, Hafez al-Assad, passed away. Since his rise to power, he has been recognized by the international community for violations of human rights. Syria has the second worst record on freedom of expression, behind only North Korea. Internet censorship and censorship of the media by the government is extensive, with many journalists being arrested for their reports. Along with the journalists, those who are opposed to the regime or speak negatively about Bashar al-Assad are commonly thrown in jail without a fair trial. Joining them are also human rights activists, homosexuals, and sometimes even people of certain ethnicities or religious beliefs, such as Kurds and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
With the beginning of the Syrian Civil War, the human rights situation has only gotten worse. As in all wars, civilians will be killed, it is simply an unfortunate, uncontrollable result. However, Assad has routinely bombed whole towns that have almost no opposition presence in them. He has also allowed the use of cluster munitions, which were banned world wide in 2008 with the Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty. The Syrian military has also routinely tortured POWs and even civilians in order to obtain tactical intelligence, arbitrarily arresting innocent and peaceful protestors to silence dissent, and even using civilians as human shields. What is even more sickening is the amount of sexual violence that Assad has allowed his soldiers to commit. Once again, war is terrible, and in every conflict soldiers will get out of line and do horrible acts. Even US soldiers in the past have committed war crimes like the massacre at My Lai during the Vietnam War. However, it is absolutely inexcusable that the Assad regime has allowed its soldiers to rape women and even young boys in order to quell dissent in rebellious towns. The regime has a record of gross negligence of human rights, willing oppressing, arbitrarily arresting, torturing, raping, and killing innocent civilians, all in order to inspire fear in the opposition, and keep a ruthless regime in power.
In addition to the human rights violations, President Assad has a record of being less than friendly to the interests of the United States, and has violated the safety and sovereignty of Israel. Assad has actively funded Islamic militant groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad), which have all routinely attacked Israel and killed innocent civilians. He has even allowed Hezbollah to carry out military operations against the Free Syrian Army, allowing them to terrorize his own people. Now, Israel has routinely oppressed the Palestinian people, and they too have their own human rights issues too, but to support militant opposition to Israel’s wrongdoings will, and has only perpetuated violent conflict and the death of innocent people. With regards to the United States, these same militant groups that Assad supports have supported or partaken in military action against the US in the Iraq War. Whether one believes that the Iraq War was right or not is one thing, but the Syrian government has inadvertently thus supported military action against the US by supporting these groups. Only with a change of leadership of the country can we expect to see a presence in Syria that would not be open to killing US soldiers.
The last thing the United States needs is to have one enemy in the Middle East replaced by an equally hostile regime. If we do not supply the Syrian rebels with arms or aid, the rebels will instead get assistance from radical Sunni Muslim militant groups like Al-Qaeda. Yes, a regime that supports militant Islamist groups is also being attacked by other, equally extreme, Islamic groups. The reason this is the case is because Assad is an Alawite, a branch of Shia Islam, and Sunni Islam does not believe that someone who is not a descendant of Muhammad can rule an Islamic country and that therefore, Assad’s presidency is against the very principles of their interpretation of Islam. Already, we are seeing Sunni militant groups fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army against Assad, and it won’t be long before they will exact their influence across the whole opposition movement, just as they have done with the revolutions in Libya and Egypt.
So far, the United States has given only rhetorical and vocal support to the Syrian rebels. The Obama administration has followed a delusional, flawed, and repeatedly failed policy concerning Syria and other countries in the Middle East. First, the President and his administration have operated under the misconception that both Russia and the US would benefit by the removal of Assad from power. That is why so far the only true assistance we have given to the Syrian rebels is to attempt to negotiate with Russia so they will no longer supply weapons and give monetary support to Assad’s regime. However, with Russia making millions off of these weapon sales, why would they suddenly believe that Assad’s removal from power would be beneficial to them? Not to mention the totally ignorant position that by supporting the Syrian rebels that we would anger the Iranian government. Of course this would be the case, but the Iranian government has never had a positive relationship with the US since the Ayatollah came to power in 1979. The Obama administration has operated under this idea though because of another delusion: that Iran can be peacefully negotiated to give up its nuclear program. Time and time again the UN and President have attempted to negotiate with the Iranian government, imposing sanctions and supporting talks in order to coerce them from pursuing technology that they would use to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”. This policy has repeatedly failed, only working to delay the program, not stop it.